Tuesday, August 22, 2017

there are no words...


in which our plucky heroine is rendered speechless...

I very unexpectedly ended up being able to go see the full solar eclipse, despite my lack of advance planning... some old friends who live right in the middle of the totality zone in Jefferson Oregon opened up their backyard for an eclipse overnight shindig, and some of my dear Olympia friends (Bill, Cathy, Jen, and Toshi the wonder pup) scooped me up, took me there and back home again afterwards. On eclipse morning, we all set up chairs in the front yard and had a perfect view in a clear sky to watch the moon shadow cross the sun face. my friend Bob set up his camera to take timed photos at set intervals*, while the rest of us sat and chatted, or knit, and all periodically looked up to watch the progress of the moon shadow...
""... Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him... Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it. During a partial eclipse the sky does not darken—not even when 94 percent of the sun is hidden. Nor does the sun, seen colorless through protective devices, seem terribly strange...

What you see in an eclipse is entirely different from what you know... You do not see the moon. So near the sun, it is as completely invisible as the stars are by day. What you see before your eyes is the sun going through phases. It gets narrower and narrower, as the waning moon does, and, like the ordinary moon, it travels alone in the simple sky. The sky is of course background. It does not appear to eat the sun; it is far behind the sun. The sun simply shaves away; gradually, you see less sun and more sky...

... A piece of sky beside the crescent sun was detaching. It was a loosened circle of evening sky, suddenly lighted from the back. It was an abrupt black body out of nowhere; it was a flat disk; it was almost over the sun. That is when there were screams. At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid. The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place.

excerpted from Annie Dillard's 1982 essay "Total Eclipse"

It was so different to actually experience it instead of just reading about it or seeing pictures, or even the one time I saw a partial solar eclipse. The quality of the light kept changing, the wild birds all went to roost in odd places, it gradually cooled off as the light became more plangent, and the heat of the morning was pierced now and again with a wisp of cool breezes. Street lights came on, and then the peak moment arrived!

During totality we could all take off our eclipse glasses and look directly at the sun, seeing the corona in wispy rays surrounding a dark circle. The horizons we could see between the buildings appeared colored as at dawn, only in the entirely wrong places, to the south, and the northeast (I have been told that if on a hilltop, the sunrise colors are the whole circle of the horizon...) I found it to be literally awe inspiring in an almost atavistic physical sense... my legs got shaky, and I found myself waving my arms in the air and hollering (which is not how I usually react to things)

I am so very grateful to have been able to see the eclipse, and will treasure the memory for the rest of my life, as one of my peak experiences ever...

* he then assembled them into one composited image, which gives a sense of what we saw in the eastern sky
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2 comments:

  1. I'm so happy that you got to see the totality of the eclipse! You have amazing friends, indeed ;-)

    And I love the "cuticles" on the horse! I got pics of them on our yard fence, but it's not the same...

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  2. What a wonderful experience you had!

    We didn't have a total eclipse here but it was still magical. I joined college students across the street, all of us awe-struck at the orange sliver of sun and the myriad shadows through the trees of the eclipse, such as on the horse in your photo.

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